Bellator 280 Report: Ryan Bader defeats Cheick Kongo in rematch to retain title

Originally published at Bellator 280 Report: Ryan Bader defeats Cheick Kongo in rematch to retain title - POST Wrestling | WWE NXT AEW NJPW UFC Podcasts, News, Reviews

Bellator 280 took place on Friday afternoon, from the AccorHotels Arena in Paris, France. The card was headlined by a rematch for the Bellator Heavyweight Championship, as Ryan Bader looked to defend his title against Cheick Kongo. These fighters originally fought at Bellator 226 in September of 2019, a fight that ended in a no-contest after an accidental eye-poke from Bader resulted in the fight being stopped in the opening round. In January of this year, Bader successfully defended his championship against Valentin Moldavsky, and Kongo was brought into the octagon to face off with him afterwards, setting up this rematch. Kongo had defeated Sergei Kharitonov several months earlier, a victory that ultimately created this opportunity for him to win the Bellator Heavyweight Championship in his home country. This card was also set to feature a light heavyweight matchup between Yoel Romero and Melvin Manhoef, but Manhoef was forced to withdraw from the bout following hand injury, and he was replaced on short notice by Alex Polizzi, who had won his three previous bouts. Commentary for this card was provided by the team of Dave Farrar and John McCarthy, and the analytical team consisted of Josh Thomson and Aidan Power.



  • Bourama Camara def. Victor Verchere by KO at 3:06 of Round 1
  • Youcef Ouabbas def. Matthieu Duclos by TKO at 4:17 of Round 1
  • Lucie Bertaud def. Katarzyna Sadura by unanimous decision (29–28, 30–27, 30–27)
  • Yves Landu def. Gavin Hughes by TKO at 3:01 of Round 1
  • Søren Bak def. Charlie Leary by unanimous decision (29–28, 30–27, 29–28)
  • Jordan Barton def. Fabacary Diatta by split decision (29–28, 29–28, 28–29)
  • Thibault Gouti def. Lewis Long by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
  • Piotr Niedzielski def. Pedro Carvalho by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)


  • Gregory Babene def. Mike Shipman by KO at 2:11 of Round 1
  • Lorenz Larkin def. Kyle Stewart by TKO at 4:44 of Round 1
  • Davy Gallon def. Benjamin Brander by TKO at 3:18 of Round 2
  • Yoel Romero def. Alex Polizzi by TKO at 4:59 of Round 3
  • Ryan Bader def. Cheick Kongo by unanimous decision (50-45 all) to retain the Bellator Heavyweight Championship

MIKE SHIPMAN (14-3, 185.8) VS GREGORY BABENE (21-11, 1 NC, 185.6) – LIGHTWEIGHT

Babene quickly attempted a guillotine, and while he was unable to lock in the submission, he was able to secure top positon on the ground, where he began to work from half guard. Shipman escaped to his feet, but ate a hard right hand from Babene moments later. Babene slowly moved forwards, and threw a brutal combination of hooks that found their target, knocking Shipman down against the cage. Babene followed the knockdown up with a pair of vicious left hands, and the fight was stopped.

WINNER: Gregory Babene by KO at 2:11 of Round 1

Gregory Babene is not a fighter known for his knockout power, so this was a rather surprising result, especially against a fighter like Mike Shipman, who is a very solid striker. This in fact marked Babene’s first knockout win in over a decade, so this was a special occasion for the 38-year-old fighter, fighting in front of his home country crowd here. Babene is now on a seven-fight win streak, and he has stopped his opponent in all seven of those bouts.

LORENZ LARKIN (23-7, 1 NC, 185.6) VS KYLE STEWART (15-5, 185.6) – MIDDLEWEIGHT

Larkin went on the attack early, throwing a combination of strikes to the head and body. Stewart got cracked by a right hand from Larkin, before responding with one of his own. This was not a slow-paced fight, but the fans in attendance were voicing their displeasure throughout the round, showering the fighters with boos. Late in the round, Larkin floored Stewart with an elbow, and dished out some brutal follow up shots to his grounded opponent as Stewart attempted to pick himself up against the cage. Stewart shelled up, and eventually the fight was stopped.

WINNER: Lorenz Larkin by TKO at 4:44 of Round 1

This was about as dominant of a performance as you’ll see in MMA. Larkin was several steps ahead of Stewart on the feet, and Larkin was able to walk his opponent down, quickly overwhelming him on the feet. It is certainly worth noting that Stewart took this fight on short-notice, as Larkin’s previously scheduled opponent Anthony Adams (who was replacing Khalid Murtazaliev) pulled out less than two weeks ago, so this was a huge step up in competition for Stewart without a proper training camp. Larkin has now won his last six bouts, and this marked his first finish since 2016. In his post-fight interview, Larkin made it clear that he plans on returning to welterweight for his next bout.


Gallon knocked Brander off balance in the opening minute, and chose to engage Brander on the ground, where he began to work from half guard. Brander left his neck exposed as he attempted to escape to his feet, and was nearly caught in a guillotine choke, but ultimately just lost his opportunity to escape. Gallon cracked Brander with a number of elbows to the head as Brander attempted to chase after a single leg, and he was caught in another choke attempt, forcing him back to the ground, where Gallon maintained top position. In the final minute of the fight, Brander made it back to his feet, but was instantly knocked back to the ground, and Gallon finished the round in top position. 10-8 Gallon.

The fighters exchanged kicks to start the second round, before Gallon tripped Brander back to the ground. Gallon worked his way into the crucifix position, where he threw down heavy elbows and right hands until the fight was stopped, as Brander was unable to escape the position.

WINNER: Davy Gallon by TKO at 3:18 of Round 2

Gallon dominated this fight for its entirety, giving Brander absolutely no room to breath from the opening bell until the eventual stoppage. He showcased some very impressive grappling ability here, and was a huge fan favourite in front of this French crowd. Gallon improved to 3-0 in Bellator with this win, and he is a fighter that has looked very impressive since signing with the promotion just last year.


Romero stuffed a pair of early takedown attempts from Polizzi. Romero was throwing out a number of straight left hands that were finding their target, as Polizzi looked to counter with looping left hooks, one of which, caught Romero clean. Polizzi did a good job of avoiding Romero’s bigger shots of the round, but was unable to take Romero down, something that he attempted repeatedly. In the final seconds of the round, Romero secured a takedown of his own, but Polizzi escaped to his feet before time expired. Close round.

A left hook from Romero staggered Polizzi early in the second round, and he attempted to finish Polizzi as he pressured forward with a combination of punches. Polizzi survived the dangerous exchange, but another big left hand from Romero hurt Polizzi not long after. This time, Romer chose not to go on the attack, and he allowed Polizzi to recover. Romero continued to do significant damage with those straight left hands, and the damage had begun to accumulate on the left leg of Polizzi as well, due to a number of teep kicks to the leg from Romero throughout the bout. In the final minute of the round, Romero landed yet another left hand that severely rocked Polizzi, but he chose to taunt instead of capitalizing on the moment, even as Polizzi spent the next twenty seconds attempting to regain his balance.

Polizzi was surely in need of a finish in this third round, but he did not seem to have any answers for Romero’s unique guard, and time was quickly running out on Polizzi. Romero recorded another knockdown in the third round, and while Polizzi picked himself up once again, he was so wobbled that he could barely stand. Romero did not go on the attack however, and gave Polizzi a couple minutes to recover. In the final seconds of the fight, Romero dropped Polizzi for a third time, and this time he followed it up with one last shot that convinced referee Mike Beltran to waive off the fight, just as the final bell sounded.

WINNER: Yoel Romero by TKO at 4:59 of Round 3

This was another sizeable mismatch on this card. Polizzi took this fight on just a few days notice, following Melvin Manhoef’s withdrawal from the bout due to injury (sustained stopping a trio of burglars in his home). Polizzi was unable to take Romero down throughout the bout, which was his clearest path to victory, and on the feet, Romero just picked away at him, landing left hand after left hand until the damage really began to add up. Personally, I would not have been upset if the fight was stopped at the end of the second round, and I thought Polizzi took a great deal of unnecessary damage throughout the third round, and round in which he was rocked and knocked down multiple times. Regardless, this was a much-needed win for Romero, who broke a four-fight streak of losses with this win, and he showcased why he is still considered to be one of the most dangerous fighters in the sport. After the bout, Melvin Manhoef was brought into the cage to face off with Romero, and it was announced that the originally scheduled Romero/Manhoef bout will now take place at a later date in Dublin.


This was a rematch of a fight from September of 2019, a fight that resulted in a no-contest following an accidental eye poke from Bader in the first round that left Kongo unable to continue.

The fighters touched gloves to begin the fight. Bader backed Kongo into the cage early, and dragged him down repeatedly. Kongo grabbed the fence to remain on his feet at one point, but the grab was not called by the referee. The referee was forced to get involved in the action moments later however, following an accidental low blow from Bader. Bader brought Kongo right back to the prior position when the action resumed, and he maintained it until the round’s conclusion. 10-9 Bader.

Kongo tagged Bader with a number of strikes early in the second round, but his tendency to fight so close to the cage betrayed him, and Bader was able to take him down with four minutes to work. Bader was not terribly active from his position, but he did just enough to avoid a stand up, and Kongo was unable to escape until the round reached its end. 20-18 Bader.

Bader easily backed Kongo into the cage and took him right back down to begin the third round. Eventually, they were stood up due to inactivity, where Kongo was able to land a pair of heavy leg kicks as well as a counter hook, but he quickly backed into the cage once again, and Bader wrestled him up against the cage until the bell sounded. 30-27 Bader.

Kongo swung with a heavy right hand, but Bader ducked under it and took Kongo back down. Bader wrestled Kongo against the cage for the entirety of the round, with very little action to speak of otherwise. Kongo had nothing to offer Bader by this point in the fight. 40-36 Bader.

Unsurprisingly, Bader was able to take Kongo back to the ground seconds into the final round. After three minutes of uneventful control time from Bader, they were stood up with roughly ninety seconds remaining, and Kongo flurried forward with a combination of strikes. Bader was able to wrap Kong back up quickly however, and he held Kongo against the cage until time expired, as the audience voiced their displeasure. 50-45 Bader.

WINNER: Ryan Bader by unanimous decision (50-45 all) to retain the Bellator Heavyweight Championship

Bader won every single minute of this twenty-five-minute fight. Kongo has absolutely zero answers for Bader’s wrestling, and his tendency to circle the cage betrayed him here, as it played right into Bader’s gameplan. In terms of entertainment value, this was a dreadful bout, but unquestionably a dominant one for Bader, who now holds a 5-0 (1 NC) record at heavyweight. In all likelihood, Linton Vassell will be next for Ryan Bader (assuming he chooses to remain at heavyweight), but I would not write off the possibility of a Fedor Emelianenko rematch either, given his recent knockout victory over Tim Johnson, as well as his overall star power.

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